What we’ve read so far, 20 months

Last weekend, for the first time, Lyra picked up a book, brought it to me, and sat in my lap…and then changed her mind, got up, took the book, sat in her little chair, and read it herself. The book was Hug by Jez Alborough, so there are only three words (hug, Mommy, and Bobo), but she turned the pages herself and said the right words at the right pages. Of course she is not actually reading, but it’s a definite pre-literacy step and very exciting!

Hug by Jez Alborough

She also participates in reading now by saying the parts she knows along with us: my favorite example of this is Oh No, George! by Chris Haughton. We say, “What will George do?” and she says, “Oh no George!” And she knows what’s under each of the flaps in the Spot lift-the-flap books, which was a little surprising the first time.

Oh No George by Chris Haughton

We’ve also started reading to her during mealtimes. Some (most?) people would say reading at the table is poor manners, but I think it is perfectly civilized.

Some of her recent favorites are:Some Bugs

  • Some Bugs, words by Angela DiTerlizzi, bugs by Brendan Wenzel
  • If You Give A Mouse A Cookie by Laura Numeroff, illustrated by Felicia Bond
  • Little Pea by Amy Krause Rosenthal
  • Be A Baby by Sarah Withrow, illustrated by Manuel Monroy
  • Julia’s House for Lost Creatures by Ben Hatke
  • Carl’s Birthday by Alexandra Day
  • The Duckling Gets A Cookie?! by Mo Willems
  • A Greyhound, A Groundhog by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Chris Appelhans (the illustrator of Sparky! by Jenny Offill)
  • The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt
  • Please, Mr. Panda and I’ll Wait, Mr. Panda by Steve Antony

She’s been into music more lately as well; she especially loves listening to the Beatles’ version of “Twist and Shout” on the record player (vinyl only; iTunes need not apply), though she calls it “ABCs” (??). She will dance around with her two shaker eggs, and her parents are each assigned their respective instruments as well. She has tried to get the dog to dance and play and instrument too, but the dog is, unsurprisingly, not interested.

She has started to sing along to songs she knows; she’s been doing the “EIEIO” part of “Old MacDonald” and the animal sounds for a while, but she’s started to sing “Old Shoes, New Shoes” and “Tap Tap” (songs she brought home from daycare). One of her first sentences was “Yaya purple shoes” – it’s lacking a verb, but you get the point.

In the car she will look through board books or draw on her mini-Magna-Doodle, and she asks for “baby music,” which is what I call the CDs I’ve made her (mostly Caspar Babypants, but some Sesame Street, Raffi, and They Might Be Giants songs). I’m trying to get her to come around to the Beauty & the Beast soundtrack, but so far she still prefers CPB.

The most recent exciting development is not reading related – she has started to jump! Mostly she likes to jump off things, like our stepstool, but two feet definitely left the ground at once at the playground yesterday.

“What does a bunny do?”
“Hop hop!”

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Spring gardening at the new place

Spring is here, and that means plants and dirt! It also means seeing what perennials come up in our new yard, and planting a few things of our own in the ground, though I’ll still have lots of plants in pots and containers this year.

Greyhound lounging in the sun, new hellebore

Hellebore yellow flower

Hellebore

First, we raked up a LOT of last year’s dead leaves. That alone made a huge difference! Then my mom and my aunt helped me plant four hellebore plants that my aunt had brought from her own garden in Maryland. We planted them where I hope they’ll get a good amount of sun, and added some mulch. The dog also got to enjoy the sunshine while we worked.

There are little tufts of what look and smell a lot like chives here and there. I’m thinking of digging them up and potting them, since I usually grow chives in the summer anyway. If they aren’t exactly chives, they’re definitely in the onion/garlic family, so…close enough, right?

Strawberry plants in jar

Strawberry plants

I bought three new strawberry plants and put them in my old strawberry jar, on the south-facing front porch where they’ll get lots of sun (and hopefully be less prone to attack by squirrels, birds, rabbits, and any other berry-loving wildlife).

I moved the herbs that made it through the winter indoors back outdoors: mint, rosemary, and thyme. I bought three new parsley plants for the herb shelf as well – two curly, one flat-leaf – some of which I harvested to use at our seder. I’ll be getting basil as well, but it’s a little early in the season still – it may still be getting too cold at night for basil.

Radish seedlings

Radish seedlings

I didn’t start any seeds indoors this year, but I did get some radish seeds at the hardware store and planted them in containers outside; they have already sprouted! The first crop should be ready in less than three weeks, and I can plant another crop in late summer/early fall.

I tried to get the little one excited about the seedlings, but she is more interested in the slide, the hammock, throwing a ball (as of today!), and chalk drawings on the pavement.

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What’s next? I’ll plant tomatoes and basil in May. They’ll go in the same containers as last year, since I don’t think we’ll be building any raised beds in a hurry. I’ll probably get some flowers, too, and keep an eye on any perennials or “volunteers” that come up. I’d love to get a rain barrel and start composting, too. (Any tips? Leave a comment!) I’d love to get honeysuckle and/or some berries growing on the back fence, so I’ll be on the lookout for a thornless berry bush or vine. And that all seems like plenty for Year One here! Maybe in the fall I’ll put in some bulbs for next spring – grape hyacinths, daffodils or perhaps tulips. We’ll see!

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Owlt for a walk

We are finally, finally getting some nice spring weather. What classic outdoor activity do we do first? We buckle Owl in the stroller and go for a walk.

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Dad makes sure Owl is buckled in safely.

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Lyra pushes Owl around the driveway…

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…but stops for frequent safety checks.

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Are the buckles still secure?

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Okay, we’re good to go!

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Better call for backup on this buckle. It’s a tricky one.

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What we’ve read so far, 17.5 months

Our little toddler still loves books, which is gratifying (and a huge relief to her librarian mama). She will look at board books on her own, and we read those and regular picture books together; she’s getting very good at turning the picture book pages carefully, if the adult reader separates one from the next.

Recent favorites are:

  • The Mitten by Jan Brett
  • Chu’s Day, Chu’s Day at the Beach, and Chu’s First Day of School by Neil Gaiman and Adam Rex
  • I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen and Mac Barnett
  • Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
  • Oliver and His Alligator by Paul Schmid
  • Foodie Babies Wear Bibs by Michelle Sinclair Colman and Nathalie Dion
  • The Spot books by Eric Hill (Spot’s First Walk, Where’s Spot?, Spot Goes to the Farm, Spot Goes to School, etc.)

As we were reading I Want My Hat Back for the fourth time this afternoon, the summary on the title page caught my eye: “A bear almost gives up his search for his missing hat until he remembers something important.” (For the real cataloging nerds: The Library of Congress Subject Headings for the book are: 1. Bears — Fiction. 2. Hats — Fiction. 3. Lost and found possessions — Fiction. There is nothing about revenge or eating your enemies…though I am certain there are LCSH for those too.)

Here are some other picture book summaries:

  • “A young elephant sees his dad is in a bad mood and tries to cheer him up, not realizing his own mischief caused the bad mood in the first place.” –How to Cheer Up Dad by Fred Koehler
  • “On the first day of school, a young panda learns about the the special things his animal classmates can do.” –Chu’s First Day of School
  • “A monster tries to chomp any reader who wants to go past the first page of the book in order to keep his cakes safe.” –I Will Chomp You by Jory John and Bob Shea

The kid isn’t interested in the summaries, of course – she’s interested in giant fake sneezes. AHHH….AHHHHH…AHHHHCHOOOOOOO!

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Reading Oliver and His Alligator

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Reading a board book version of the song “Ten in the Bed”

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Feeling the kitten’s soft fur

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Adventures in sewing, continued

“30 minute skirt” HAHAHAHAHAHA allow me to wipe away tears of laughter. NO. Unless you’re an “amateur” seamstress the way the people on The Great British Baking Show are “amateur” bakers, and then sure, 30 minutes. For me, an actual amateur (as in beginner, not as in “I could be doing this professionally and getting paid for it, I just happen not to be”), it took about three and a half hours in two separate sessions – one in September, and one in March, because in between we moved house and everything unrelated to that was  on hold.

I did take the “30 minute” part of the description with a large grain of salt, because I am so new to sewing, and I’m sure if I made a skirt from this pattern again, it would take a little less time. But between the measuring, cutting, ironing, pinning, and actual sewing (and troubleshooting the sewing machine), I can’t imagine doing one start to finish in less than an hour.

Modeling skirt with black top, leggings, and bootsThe instructions were clear and fairly easy to follow. I used a jersey fabric and a slightly wider elastic than was called for (I had it on hand for another pattern I was planning to make, but made this one instead). The skirt came out well enough – the seams and hem are even, and it more or less fits – but I let the fabric get bunched up in a couple places when I was sewing the elastic into the waistband, creating some unintentional and asymmetrical pleat-like things. However, they don’t affect the fall of the skirt too badly, and whatever top I wear with the skirt is likely to cover it up.

For a first effort, I’m calling it a success. I wore it to work and it’s very comfortable – which is the most important part!

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More tasty things in the kitchen

Tasty things we made in December

Sweet potato casserole (adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook)

Ingredients
8 Tbsp butter
5 sweet potatoes
Less than 1/3 cup each of brown sugar, molasses, and maple syrup*
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
Pecans for topping (optional)

*The original recipe called for 1 cup of packed brown sugar, and also 5 lbs of potatoes; a few of my potatoes were probably under a pound, but even so, that seemed like a lot of sugar. I replaced some of the sugar with other sweeteners, about 1/4 cup of each – you could definitely cut back even more and this would still be a very sweet dish.

Instructions
Peel and cut sweet potatoes into chunks. Melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add sweet potatoes, sugar/molasses/syrup, water, salt, and pepper; bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Cook, stirring often, until the potatoes are tender, 30-45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 450.

Remove the lid and bring the potato mixture to a simmer; gently mash the potatoes into the liquid with a potato masher. Chop the pecans and spread them over the top of the potato mixture, then bake 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool just long enough so that you don’t burn your mouth on the first bite.

Olive oil cake with lemon and ginger (adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake)

We made the blood orange olive oil cake, and it was very good, but it will be years before I “supreme” a citrus fruit again. Make the same cake using lemon zest and juice instead of orange, and add about 1/2 cup of chopped crystallized ginger, and it’s an easier and equally delicious cake.

Green casserole a.k.a. secret spinach casserole (adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook)

Very adapted: I actually used the ATK recipe for fettuccine alfredo sauce, added a cube of last summer’s frozen pesto and a whole bag of spinach (turned into green paste with a little bit of olive oil in the food processor), and used this green sauce mixture to coat cooked (al dente) rigatoni pasta, which I then baked in a 9×13 casserole dish at 350 for about 20 minutes. Grate some extra cheese over the top if you like (and who doesn’t like?).

Oatmeal walnut raisin cranberry cookies (from Baking With Less Sugar by Joanne Chang)

These are good if you think of them as breakfast cookies instead of dessert cookies.

A note on crystallized ginger and raisins, vis a vis toddlers: our kid is wild about these. I just heard you’re not supposed to give raisins to kids under three because they are a choking hazard, but they are very small raisins, and she’s been fine so far. And she brushes her (many, many, I think about 80 now?) teeth. As for the ginger…neither her dad nor I can handle eating a whole piece of ginger, but apparently she has a much higher spice/heat tolerance than we do!

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Written on stone

A small stone sitting on a wall. On the stone is written "Be kind. Everyone matters."

“Be kind. Everyone matters.”

Noticed this little stone resting on top of a wall on my walk back from the playground last week.

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